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Culture is Learned

The ease with which children absorb any cultural tradition rests on the uniquely elaborated human capacity to learn. Other animals may learn from experience for example they avoid fire after discovering that it hurts. Social animals also learn from other members of their group. Social learning is particularly important among monkeys and apes. Cultural learning depends on the uniquely developed human capacity to use symbols, signs that have no necessary or natural connection to the things they signify or for which they stand. On the basis of cultural learning, people create, remember and deal with ideas. They grasp and apply specific systems of symbolic meaning. Clifford Greetz defines culture as ideas based on cultural learning and symbols. Cultures have been characterized as sets of control mechanism – plans, recipes, rules, instructions what computer engineers call programs for the governing of behavior. These programs are absorbed by people through enculturation in particular traditions. People gradually internalize a previously established system of meanings and symbols. They use this cultural system to define their world express their feelings and make their judgments. This system helps guide their behavior and perceptions throughout their lives. Every person begins immediately through a process of conscious and unconscious learning and interaction with others to internalize or incorporate a cultural tradition through the process of enculturation. Culture is taught directly as when parents tell their children to say thank you when someone gives them something or does them a favor. Culture also is transmitted through observation. Children pay attention to the things that go on around them. They modify their behavior not just because other people tell them to but as a result of their own observations and growing awareness of what their culture considers right and wrong. Culture is also absorbed subconsciously. According to Anthropologists cultural learning is uniquely elaborated among humans and that all humans have culture. They also talk of a doctrine named in the 19th century as the psychic unity of man. This means that although individuals differ in their emotional and intellectual tendencies and capacities ,all human populations have equivalent capacities for culture. Regardless of their genes or their physical appearance, people can learn any cultural tradition.